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January 15, 2012 / carlispina

Visualize Twitter Data with The Archivist

As Twitter continues to grow in popularity, librarians are looking for new ways to analyze the impact of their library’s Twitter presence. While there are other analytics tools and techniques available, The Archivist by MIX Online is a great way to generate visualizations of a range of information using the Twitter API in a user-friendly way. Even better, The Archivist lets users generate visualizations for any valid search term, meaning that it is possible to use the tool on hashtags, usernames, terms or individual words. This makes it a much more versatile tool than one that is tied to the tweets from a specific account and gives users greater power to analyze the data from similarly situated institutions or from hashtags or terms that are relevant to their patrons.

The Archivist Mascot

To use The Archivist, a Twitter user signs in using their Twitter credentials. Once signed in, users can create visualizations in a matter of moments by using a single search box to start analysis of any valid Twitter search term. Users can have multiple archives in process simultaneously and once an archive is created, tweets will be added to it periodically and the visualizations will be updated accordingly. While The Archivist cautions that it “does not have access to the Twitter ‘firehouse'” (meaning that not all tweets on a given subject are guaranteed to be included), it does seem to do a good job of adding additional tweets to the archive over time. And, each archive includes information on when it was last updated to make sure that users are clear about what information is included in the visualizations. Each archive includes six charts visualizing different types of data and clicking on an individual visualization leads to an expanded view with additional information. Archives and visualizations can’t be exported, but they can be made public so that users can share their visualizations via a URL. Each archive also includes a lengthy list of tweets from that archive at the bottom of the screen. Users can also compare the tweet volume of two or more of their archives by selecting the desired archives in their profile and clicking the comparison button.

I think that The Archivist can be a fun and useful tool for Twitter analysis, especially given that it has a very low learning curve. While it is limited in what it can do since there is no way to customize or add to the visualizations it generates, this limitation is at least somewhat offset by the speed with which archives can be created. It is truly as easy as signing in with Twitter credentials and running a search. For users who are comfortable doing more specialized visualizations on their own, The Archivist may seem a bit stifling, but for those without either the advanced technical skills to generate individualized visualizations or the time to invest in trying to make sense of the data coming from their Twitter presence, it can provide a good overview of the available data visualized in a way that simplifies identifying trends and other important information.

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